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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

FROM  BAHR  TO   DEHMEL                            III

to Kremmen near by, and was ranger of the town forest there. It
would be wrong to say that Dehmel's upbringing in these forests
of the March of Brandenburg gives the individual note to his
poetry; he is definitely an urban poet. But the Spreewald scenery
serves again and again as background, or as contrast, or for ima-
gery; it has even been seriously suggested that the belling of
rutting stags rings out in the sexual fury of his most characteristic
verse. Whether there is any justification in the familiar interpre-
tation of his poetic manner as Prussian Schrecklichkeit controlling
Slav hysteria is dubious; the cast of his features was admittedly
Slav (in Zwei Menschen Lea speaks to Lux - that is Dehmel - of
his 'Russian face'), and his birthplace lies in what was a Slav
enclave; but (in Kultur und^asse^ one of the essays oiBetracbtungeri)
he claims to be a 'waschechter Deutscher\ though he admits that his
stock was Silesian on the paternal side and that there is a Slav ring
in the name Tschorsch which some of his ancestors bore. The
hysteria is biographically authenticated: as a boy home from school
he fell from a horizontal bar while practising gymnastics and had
concussion of the brain, and as a result suffered from epileptic fits
- because of which he was rejected for the army - till well on in
life; in his essay Naivttdt und Genie (in Retmchtungerf) he says that
in time he overcame this tendency by self-observation and will
power - except that he could always call up such Klopfgehter at
will (he means that the demonic hallucinations he describes so
vividly - particularly in the autobiographical sketches of Lebens-
blatter - were the gifts of this controlled morbid state).

His work also bears the mark of his rebellious nature as a boy.
He was sent to Berlin and lodged with an uncle while he attended
the Sophien-Gymnasium. One day he was called before his head-
master to answer for his activity as chairman of a scientific club
(Darwin was then in the forefront of intellectual interest); and
when he was asked if he wished to decorate a monkey-cage he
refused to darken the school doors again. All his school years
were marked by a violent conflict with his father, who was horri-
fied at his wild ways; here we have in real life that Sohn-Vater-
Kampf which was to provide so much matter for literature, and is
reflected in DehmePs own 'Lied an meinen Sohn. Finally Dehmel
passed his leaving examination at the Gymnasium at Danzig and
entered the University of Berlin (1882), where he studied science,
nhilosoohv. and historv. As a Couhurstiident\& was a fierce fencer,